We recently turned an extra room that’s been called the office — although the term “trash heap” would have been more fitting since it was filled with old toys, broken furniture and an outdated personal computer — into a gamer cave.
Before my husband and I had kids, video games were a huge part of our lives. During the Navy and college years, especially, we’d pull all-nighters to play video games and eat junk food.
One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced as a couple was solving Super Mario Bros. 3, back when that type of thing was based on skill, not cheat codes or hints from videos posted on Youtube. I’m pretty sure the type of focus and commitment we used to finish that game helped us navigate through numerous newlywed squabbles, including a three-week “it’s your turn to wash the dishes” standoff.
I’d like to say those memories were the inspiration for the gamer cave, but they weren’t. The truth is, I was tired of all of the drama that video games, mainly Minecraft, caused in our living room. The game, which has been dubbed “Mind Crack” in our house, seems harmless because it involves moving pixelated bricks and people around on a screen. There are a lot of 8- and 10-year-old boys who are addicted to it, including our sons.
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And I knew we were in trouble when my husband started playing it a couple months ago.
I came home from work one night, excited to watch a Seahawks pre-season game, only to be banished to a room with a much older and smaller television because the big TV already had been claimed by Mind Crack.
“It’s only pre-season, so it doesn’t really count,” my husband said.
As I thought about those cold words of betrayal from someone I had once considered a fellow diehard 12, and I watched a disappointing game on a fuzzy non-high definition television, the plan for a gamer cave was born.
It took about a day to clear the room out. We love bold colors and decided to paint it antique red, which is sort of the color of an old-fashioned barn. Naturally, our children, ages 8, 10 and 14, were eager to help with the painting.
As I finished taping the ceiling, I thought about how the experience would give them real-world interior decorating skills and build ownership in the room.
I tried to convince myself that they’d take better care of the gamer cave and work harder at keeping it clean if they helped create it. But most of all, I thought a family painting project would be fun. It would be like a group art project.
I found myself holding my breath as our 8-year-old carried a dripping paint roller over to the wall.
At that point, I had a revelation: I’ve always thought I was a carefree spirit, but somewhere deep down inside I’m more of a control freak. Even with some coaching, their painting techniques were a little scary to watch, especially in large blocks of brick red.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long until the kids were tired and bored with helping, and had gone through nearly a gallon of paint. During that time, I felt like I was constantly reminding them to be careful, even out the excess paint, stay off the ladder, stop tracking paint everywhere and, yes, keep the dogs away from the room.
Despite their nagging mom, though, apparently they had so much fun that all three offered to help add a second coat of paint the next day.
I thanked them, told them they had done a great job and encouraged them to play video games one last time on the living room television while I finished the paint job.